Golden Globes: The price of gold goes up and down, but the value of a Golden Globe remains priceless in Hollywood.

I was on hand again at the Beverly Hilton Hotel Sunday for the 71st annual Golden Globe Awards and am happy to say the Hollywood Foreign Press Association still hosts Hollywood's best party night of the year.

Kudos are due Tina Fey and Amy Poehler once more for being the show's hostesses with the "mostesses." They know exactly how to engage the Globes' in-house audience of champagne sipping industry heavyweights while also playing well to the live telecast's millions of viewers at home. The show's ratings were fabulous with 20.9 million viewers, up 6 percent over last year. Happily, Fey and Poehler will be back again to host the 2015 Globes.appilHH


Besides all the televised fun, the HFPA also plays a key role in shaping the Oscar race. The Globes' best picture winners -- Fox Searchlight's "12 Years a Slave" (drama) and Columbia's "American Hustle" (musical or comedy) – are now unquestionably the Oscar frontrunners. Of course, in the Oscar race they'll be competing against each other because the Academy doesn't have separate categories for dramas and musicals or comedies the way the HFPA does.

Typically, comedies are at a disadvantage with Academy voters, who tend to prefer socially significant or "important" films when they think Best Picture. On the other hand, although "Hustle" wound up in the HFPA's musical or comedy race, it could easily be considered a drama and Oscar voters could regard it that way.

It's too late, however, for the Globe wins to influence Oscar nominations. Academy members had to have their nominations ballots in by 5:00 p.m., Jan. 8 and the noms will be announced Jan. 16. But since "Slave" and "Hustle" are both virtually certain to be Oscar nominated, their Globe wins will play a key role in attracting Academy members' votes. The same is also true in many of the other prime acting and filmmaking races.

It's easy to misunderstand how Globes success gives films and stars an advantage in the Oscar race. It's not that a Globe victory instantly turns a picture into a serious Oscar contender. "Slave" and "Hustle" already had high profile success in other important awards season contests in addition to the seven Globe noms they each received.

"Slave" had been honored with four Screen Actors Guild Awards noms (including best ensemble cast, SAG's equivalent of best picture). It had 10 BAFTA noms from the British Academy (including best picture) and 13 Broadcast Film Critics Association noms (including best picture). It won best picture, director (Steve McQueen) and supporting actress (Lupita Nyong'o) in the New York Film Critics Circle vote. And it's a Producers Guild of America best picture nominee.

"Hustle" had received two SAG noms (including ensemble cast), 10 BAFTA noms (including best picture) and 13 Broadcast Film Critics Association noms (including best picture). And it's also a Producers Guild of America best picture nominee.

The Globe noms in mid-December help to define the awards season competition for the benefit of Academy members who are so busy making movies all year that most of them actually see very few films. When December rolls around and they've got to make their nominations – this year they were due by Jan. 8 – they just don't have enough time to view all the contenders.

The easiest way to figure out what they absolutely must make time to see is to look at who the HFPA members have nominated for Globes. Because the HFPA members report on Hollywood throughout the year, they see everything and interview the big stars and filmmakers. When it comes time to nominate films, they're already up to speed.

For Academy members, the Globes noms are the answer when holiday vacation travel is fast approaching and the stack of DVD Oscar screeners is too tall to possibly deal with. You won't hear Academy members say so, but many of them would be lost if they didn't have the Globes' cheat-list of worthy pictures to refer to.

What also is great about the Globes is that it gives Academy members an opportunity to see Globes winners deliver acceptance speeches. This lets Oscar voters decide if these people look and sound like the kind of winners the Academy wants the world to see on its stage – this year's 86th annual Academy Awards will he held Mar. 2.

Globes winners who embarrass themselves by dressing inappropriately, rambling on and on, look like they've had "one too many" glasses of champagne or, worst of all, read long lists of thank-yous to people no one else in the room cares about, damage their Oscar prospects. It's not something Academy members are going to talk about, but the Globes represent a kind of dress rehearsal for Oscar winners and it's all about survival of the fittest.

If, for instance, Jacqueline Bissett, who won the supporting actress Globe for the TV series "Dancing on the Edge," had been a movie nominee, her endless, loopy, potty-mouthed acceptance speech Sunday would almost certainly have knocked her out of the Oscar race. Compounding her offence was NBC's censors not being up to the job. They somehow managed to only bleep what Bissett was saying before she actually said what she shouldn't have said!

But a Globes appearance is also an opportunity for those who know how to make it work. Winners who manage to look good onstage, speak coherently and get a few laughs from the hard partying in-house audience can enhance their Oscar potential.

A case in point is Jennifer Lawrence, who won supporting actress for "American Hustle." Lawrence is an expert at working the crowd and milking every media moment for all it's worth. In fact, when Lawrence walked into the Globes she created a great photo op by stopping to pet the bomb-sniffing police dog who was part of the security detail at the entry point.

Because the Globes are one of the year's biggest media events, coverage of what happens there is splashed across the Internet and on front pages everywhere. Video clips of key moments from the telecast – anything negative like Bissett's remarks will always get the most attention – wind up on TV newscasts and live on forever on YouTube.

The Globes' acting winners will definitely advance their Oscar prospects – including, Cate Blanchett, who won best actress – drama for "Blue Jasmine," Amy Adams, who won best actress – musical or comedy for "Hustle," Matthew McConaughey, who won best actor – drama for "Dallas Buyers Club," Leonardo DiCaprio, who won best actor – musical or comedy for "The Wolf of Wall Street," Jennifer Lawrence, who won best supporting actress for "Hustle" and Jared Leto, who won best supporting actor for "Dallas."

The Globes acting category winners will have an advantage in the Oscar race where all of them are likely nominees. Needless to say, other Oscar nominees who under-performed at the Globes will be working hard to overcome that.

I'll focus here on the Oscar noms in next week's column and will match up the Globes wins with Academy members' choices. Meanwhile, just a parting word of thanks to my friends at HBO for their always glamorous poolside after-party and to my friends at The Weinstein Company and Netflix for their lively post-Globes festivities in what used to be the hotel's Trader Vic's restaurant. These have been my favorite post-Globes events for many years and I look forward to celebrating with them again next year!

Bottom line: What happens at the Globes doesn't stay at the Globes. Good or bad, it impacts the Oscar race.